Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

The Tamil Tigers are No More

with 3 comments


Well, looks like the long running Sri Lankan Civil War is over, as the Sri Lankan government has overrun the last rebel stronghold and killed the rebel’s main leaders. The war started in 1983 and there was nothing particularly civil about it. About 90,000 people died, a comparable figure in the USA would be over a million deaths. The war was noted for the rebel’s (The Tamil Tigers) pioneering use of suicide vests and female suicide bombers. There were atrocities committed on both sides though, such is usually (always?) the case in war.

It’s a war I haven’t mentioned much, both because of its ugliness and its long and complex history. I’ll summarize quickly before making  a few points, if I make any egrigious errors I’m sure someone will be kind enough to point them out. Basically the Tamils are a minority group  in Sri Lanka that has been fighting for an independent Tamil state of its own. The Tigers obviously enjoyed at least moderate public support to fight for so long. In fact they were one of the few insurgent groups to field a navy and an air force. The Sea Tigers and the Air Tigers respectively. They, at least many of the Tamils, felt that they were a discriminated against minority in Sri Lanka, and deserved a homeland to call their own.

Whatever the justice of their cause, the Tigers were their own worst enemies. They made some spectacularly ill conceived terrorist attacks and assassinations, in fact the Tigers managed to kill two heads of state, India’s and Sri Lanka’s, a record for an insurgent group I believe. This not only struck all sorts of people as abhorrent and hurt the Tiger’s popularity, it’s also made other heads of state not terribly inclined to throw their support behind the Tigers. In fact a number of nations had classified the Tigers as a terrorist organization. Lack of international support is a huge handicap when trying to form a nation under fire, and in the Tiger’s case it was their ultimate death knell since their funding and weapons all had to come from overseas.

So this war is a rare case of military force being successfully used to destroy an insurgency. The insurgency did last 26 years, though there were long periods where there was little fighting and it seemed diplomacy might end the war. And the insurgency had long ago morphed into a conventional civil war as well. So while this may hearten those enthusiastic about using force to crush insurgencies, this war was special case and there were reasons why a military approach proved successful. Granted it’s not absolutely certain there will be no further troubles, but if the Sinhalese victors are at all magnanimous in victory I suspect the average Tamil is perfectly happy to have the war over.

So why did the Tigers lose? Well, as I explained above, they managed to lose the PR war by ill-conceived terrorist attacks and assassinations. They were also on an island with no bordering states to provide sanctuary and supply. Having to sneak all your weapons in by boat is a severe handicap in a war. The Tigers were also a personality led movement. By that I mean they were created and led by one individual the entire war, one Velupillai Prabhakaran. He got into Tamil politics at an early age, in fact at age 21 he personally assassinated a Tamil leader who he felt had betrayed the Tamil people. I dunno, but I must say that I would have a hard time admiring or following  a leader whose idea of politics was to personally kill his critics. I have a Tamil friend who said Prabhakaran was just a thug, and I certainly wouldn’t argue with her.

Maybe I’m going out on a limb here, but thugs make poor leaders. I mean, the Tamils had a defacto nation, but from my limited reading they seem to have repeatedly pushed the limits of what they had achieved and precipitated another round of fighting. This last period of fighting seems to have been started by the Tamils cutting off the water to 15,000 villagers in government territories. I think if the Tamil Tigers had leadership that was more diplomatic, there might today be an autonomous Tamil nation in Sri Lanka. That’s just a guess though, and since his  can be said in many situations, not terribly insightful. And the human capacity to make decisions that will continue the violence is our stock-in-trade as a species. Sigh.

One last bit of weirdness, guess where the Sri Lankan military got all the equipment and ammunition they needed to crush the Tamil Tigers? From Pakistan of course. And to make the situation even more bizarre, India is believed to have roiled the pot on occasions by being behind some terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka. The world is a complicated place, and all governments are capable of murderous acts. (They pretty much claim to hold a licence to do so. ) This was an interesting little conflict in some ways, a microcosm of the evil that men do. In any event, I hope that the people of Sri Lanka can put it behind them and rebuild their shattered isle. I mean, they do live in a tropical paradise for God’s sake. God rest the souls of all who died, God heal all those who survived, and Goddammit don’t do it again.

(The above image is being used legally as far as I can determine, it is by the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defence and may be used for news purposes so long as it is not modified. It is one of two Air Tiger suicide aircraft that attempted a 9/11 style attack against the capital of Sri Lanka, Colombo, earlier this year. Both planes were shot down, and only two people on the ground died, which is why it didn’t make the news. It was a futile last gasp by the Tigers, even if the attack had killed a few hundred people this would have just made the Sri Lankans more determined to carry on with their military campaign.)


Written by unitedcats

May 19, 2009 at 9:26 am

Posted in Terrorism, War, World

3 Responses

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  1. Fucking Rajapaksha should suck karuna’s dick and vise versa.


    March 28, 2011 at 12:29 pm

  2. Tamils of Eelam have had enough betrayal from Indians and those who have thrown bloody Hinduism and Tamil in the disgust over India’s direct help to Sri Lankan atrocities must clearly stand with Sinhala-Chinese partnership. At least to punish the Indians for their biggest betrayal of a brotherly nation. We should encourage more Tamils of SL to escape that hell hole for a more dignified life abroad and to throw away any culture that has Indian links. We can only wish that Indians get a taste of our experience (including ) from the Chinese!

    William J Watson

    July 5, 2011 at 6:57 pm

  3. There were many factors that contributed to the final defeat of the Tamil Tigers. Of these, lack of unity within the Tigers seems to be one of the biggest. The authoratative rule of their leader caused great dissent throughout the ranks. From the beginning, anyone showing great leadership potential in the Tigers was either isolated, or worse, liquidated. This came to a head when Karuna had to break away from the Tigers and defect to the opposition. Losing such a talented albeit ruthless general to the enemy was the first nail in the coffin for the Tigers. Then there was the apparent difference between the Christian Tamils and the Hindu Tamils. Even today one can see this difference among the Sri Lanka Tamils living in Canada, the U.K. , the States and in Australia. It is not evident to the casual observer, but it is definitely there.
    Next comes the lack of vision of the top brass, and the bad advice given to the leader by his closest cronies. No doubt the Indian Peace Keeping Force did the opposite of keeping peace in Sri Lanka, and joined the SLA in raping and looting the Tamils. This resulted in Pottu Amman arranging the assassination of Ragiv Ghandi ; an act that not only turned the whole of India against the Tigers, but the whole world as well. Whatever sympathy there was for the Tigers around the world, vanished into thin air after this ill considered and stupid act. The Tigers had become so arrogant by this time, that they thought that they could go it alone without the aid of the rest of the world.
    There was a group of Sri Lankan Tamil intellectuals living in the U.K., who had the aspirations of becoming the leaders of Eelam, should it come into existence. Thus, when the Sri Lankan government suggested at one stage that there be a power sharing rule in the Tamil dominant areas, this group advised Prabakaran that nothing short of total independence will do. It is said that, after a particularly bad defeat of the SLA by the Tigers during this time, this group had its bags all packed ready to take over the leadership of what they considered will be newly independent Eelam. This group had its children all safely studying in the U.K. but it urged the Tigers in Sri Lanka to fight to the last man for total independence. Anyone with a bit of vision would know that no country would like to see the nation broken up to two or more separate nations, no matter how bad the situation. Also, the Tiger numbers was dwindling fast, but the SLA had ample soldiers. Thus we see the recruitment of child soldiers in the Tiger camp. This further caused great hatred of the Tigers amongst the Tamils themselves.
    The Tigers should have realized that it would only be a matter of time before a Sri Lankan leader arose who not only would address all the failures of the previous leaders, but would thwart the Tigers at every turn. This leader emerged in the form of the present day president. He successfully lobbied the world to cut off ties with the Tigers, and worse, deprive them of much needed finances. Next, he appointed general Fonseka to lead the battle against the Tigers. The general at once appointed the most capable battle hardened young soldiers to take over the helm in the battle against the Tigers. To top this, he convinced the neighboring nations that their future was with Sri Lanka, and not the Tigers. Nations like China, India, Russia and others were then tripping over themselves in trying to help the government against the Tigers. with no world support and finances and several large nations fighting against you, it does not take a genius to conclude that the end of the Tigers was nigh.
    Thus came the bitter end of the Tigers, with the world not even bothering to act on the purported acts of genocide by the SLA against the Tamil civilians. The Tigers had ignored world opinion for too long, and now it was time to pay the piper.
    The Sri Lankan Tamils living overseas talk of making a comeback in the future, but this will not happen as long as the present president is in power. If he is overthrown however, there is every chance of the Tigers making a comeback, and from the lessons learnt they will be formidable force to deal with.


    July 21, 2012 at 12:18 pm

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